TU Cribs: Hibbs’ Crib

A peek into the naked mole-rat themed office of Matthew Hibbs

Students who take advantage of office hours might feel curious about the countless treasures that line the walls and shelves of their professors. Each office hosts a collection that has clearly been lovingly grown for years, and, for keen observers, the office of a professor can reveal dozens of insights into their hobbies and interests. TU Cribs is a feature series meant to explore the office spaces of our Trinity professors to shine some light on the fascinating, cozy places many of us visit for office hours.

This week’s TU Cribs takes us to the office of Matthew Hibbs, a professor of computer science. Located on the second floor of the Center for Sciences and Innovation (CSI) in room 270K, Hibbs’ office is situated across from a row of tables often used by collaborating students.

Before even entering Hibbs’ office, you will be greeted by students’ drawings of naked mole-rats on the glass door and walls of his office, but these are only the surface of a very interesting story.

Hibbs’ research is in bioinformatics, and when he arrived at Trinity nearly 10 years ago, he was introduced to Rochelle Buffenstein, previously a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center and now a senior principal investigator of Calico, she is a leader in naked mole-rat research with one of the largest lab colonies of naked mole-rats. And naked mole rats, in addition to having a plethora of unique characteristics such as resistance to cancer and aging, are apparently also artists.

Hanging in Hibbs’ office is what at first glance appears to be an abstract Jackson Pollock painting, but is actually a naked mole-rat painting (as in a painting by naked mole rats). Buffenstein would occasionally dip her naked mole rats in paint and let them scurry across canvases. She gifted a collection of these paintings to Hibbs. The rest of the paintings, Hibbs said, are in his home. Accompanying the painting is a tiny stuffed naked mole-rat, although Hibbs says it is not nearly as soft as a real naked mole-rat.

Many trinkets decorate Hibbs’ office, most of them being gifts from students. But as one glances around, one notices a discontinuity between Hibbs’ Gryffindor and Ravenclaw knickknacks. When asked about the conflicting merchandise, Hibbs said, “I aspire to Gryffindor, but I’m actually probably a Ravenclaw. I wish I was Gryffindor.”

Alongside his naked mole-rat art, Hibbs also hosts a collection of art gifted to him by students. One of his favorite pieces is a blue, gold, and white geometric painting. The painting is actually a puzzle inspired by the game “Witness,” which Hibbs had the students of one of his classes critique and analyze. Leaving puzzles around the CSI hallways grew into a game among him and his students, so one student created the painting as a permanent reminder. What’s unique about the student’s painted puzzle, Hibbs noted, is that it can be solved no matter what path you take.

There are countless other stories on the walls and shelves of Hibbs’ office, and if you ever get to stop by for office hours, you can learn those backstories for yourself.